Monday, April 28, 2014

Weathering the weather

It's on, folks!  Tornado season, at least in the Twister Belt of the United States, is here.  And if the states of the Southeast are in the buckle of the belt, then I'm pretty sure the little county in Tennessee I sit in is the prong.  There's about five or six counties in central northern Alabama bordered by three counties in southern central Tennessee, and Lincoln County sits squarely between the other two.  And Fayetteville is pretty much dead center Lincoln County.  Yep, I'm pretty certain that we are the prong.

I suspect that all media programming this evening will be interrupted by solemn looking and speaking men and women with huge radar screens of reds and yellows and purples and they will be talking about supercells and hooks and vertical wind shear.  In fact, the most likely scenario will be that weather alerts will be interrupted by five minute segments of regular programming.

Listen.  I'm not trying to minimize this.  I just think we all did a lot better when we knew a lot less.  I know that tornadoes do a ton of property damage every year, all over the country, and that many people lose their lives to them.  But having to sit and listen to weather men and women...excuse me...meteorologists...induce their audiences into a frenzy of fear seems counterproductive.  Especially if you consider that the chances of a particular house in a tornado prone area has only around a one in 10 million chance of being struck.  (Please don't hold me to my statistics.  I'm not a statistician, as my close friends will tell you.  But I do consult several choices before reaching a conclusion.  Thank you, Google.)

When I was a kid, I barely remember how much information we received about violent weather.  Of course, that had to travel via Pony Express and then, later, telegraph, so that's understandable.  I'm pretty sure that I simply consulted my parents or grandparents as to their opinion, and I don't really remember anyone freaking out or being even mildly concerned about it.  There was a great deal more conversation around what weather had occurred the day before than what weather would occur later in the day or tomorrow.


... if I put my cavalier attitude aside for a moment and look into facts instead of the vacuum of my skull, I discover enough information to cause a few beads of sweat to trickle from my armpits.

 On February 29, 1952, an F-4 (207-260 mph winds) struck Fayetteville, Tennessee and was on the ground continuously for seven miles.  It destroyed 139 homes, wreaked major damage to 152 more, and took two lives.  One hundred and sixty-six people were injured.  This was the 4th tornado that followed more or less a similar track over a 100 year period.

On April 29, 1974, two F5s slammed into the Fayetteville and surrounding area, taking six lives in Tennessee and destroying over 1000 buildings.

In all, around 40 tornadoes have toggled the prong of the Twister Belt since 1890.

Uh...that's about one every three years.  Looking more closely, there have been 15 since 2000.

So, listen...instead of me sitting here on the south side of the house and typing away at this keyboard as the sky turns to heavy lead all above me,  I'll cozy up to the TV and find me some really wise meteorologists to spend some time with.  With my wife, the leashes for my dogs, and a fully charged iPhone with a flashlight app.

You see, Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore.  But we are in Tennessee, right square in the doggone prong of the Twister Belt.  And that's close enough for me.


Update:  11:28 p.m. CDT...a large tornado touched down in Kelso, TN this evening at around 8:45.  The family farm of 175 years took a direct hit.  Early reports from Ryan and Callie Hardiman, our co-farmers, is that the buildings didn't suffer a great deal of damage...just some fallen trees.  However, and this is in the dark of night, it appears that the land...the trees, the fields, the pastures, the bottom...was devastated.  Many head of cattle and calves are unaccounted for.  I try not to be angry.  I try not to be hurt.  I try to put this in the perspective that there has been a lot of devastation over the past couple of days with more on the menu tomorrow.  I try to put it in the perspective that lives have been lost.  I try to be thankful.  As soon as first light appears tomorrow, Geri and I will try to make our way to the farm.  We believe our domestic animals are fine.  We believe that there is superficial house and barn damage that can be repaired.  We fear for the cows and cattle.  But I most am dreading the moment my eyes first encounter the devastated land, the century old trees cut down to trunk size or completely pulled up by their roots.  I'm dreading gazing upon the ravaged beauty of "the farm," a sight that has brought me many years of joy and peace.  And I will probably be angry.  And more than sad.  I'll just try to make it short and not wallow in it.  And get busy trying to put things back together again.

Damn tornadoes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

He's back!!! I'm down to zero page views today.  I was wondering how long it would take for people to stop checking in to see if the lazy, retired guy had posted anything on his blog.  Man!  You are so right!  I am really starting to get this lazy thing down.

But, let's back up just a bit.  Last week I dedicated four whole days to manual labor at the farm.  And I'm talking some tough labor.  With Geri as my number one assistant.  We pulled up ten shrubs that had been rooting for 10 years and replaced them with rock.  Little rocks, medium rocks, big rocks.  Rocks from 50 pound bags (called river rocks and egg rocks) along with rocks from our fields.  In fact, a total of 24 bags of rocks and probably 75 miscellaneous rocks from around the farm.  Looks pretty darn good if we must say so ourselves.  And I discovered several muscles I didn't know existed.

So, Doug...if you do a little manual labor, then the rule is...the law can't write a sentence or two in a blog.  Gray's Law of Nothing Matters.  Well.  Maybe.  I guess I could have typed for a minute or two..  I just chose not to.

As an aside,  a possum update.  There is no possum update.  Haven't seen hide nor hair of the critter in a couple of weeks.  Haven't seen any signs of him cleaning up the cats' leftovers.  Saw a dead one in the road near the farm but it was too small to be "him."  Speaking of dead possums in the road, when it comes to roadkill, there's a solid 50/50 chance it's going to be a possum.  We've all seen other animals...tons of them...but if we're going to be honest with ourselves, possums dominate.  If roadkill was a casino game, the house would have the possum.  And knowing how the casinos like to stack the odds, they would probably make the armadillo a house bet also.  Sort of like the zero and the double zero on the roulette wheel.

Speaking of critters, we've saved a couple since we last talked.  Another bird, a robin this time, thought it would be fun to commit suicide by slamming full speed into our picture window (yes, it is a picture window and yes, they probably don't make them anymore, and, yes,  if they did, they certainly could find something more exciting to call it than a picture window).  Geri provided healing touch for several minutes and I provided a bird house with a nice open front porch for it to recover in till the point it was ready to fly away.  Much to our cats' chagrin.  The other was a baby bunny.  I flushed it from a nest doing some manual labor - there's that term again - around the house "in town" and of all the places it could run, it headed straight toward the swimming pool.  Right under the fence and straight into the pool.  Wham, bam, thank you Sam.  Of course, it didn't know there was a pool there.  I mean, who would stick a pool in the middle of a perfectly good yard.  I was preparing to shuck shoes and pants and hit the 50 degree water but, luckily, it swam around the edges (trying to find a place to pull out) and I was able to reach in and scoop the little son of a gun out.  A few minutes in the sun drying off and some human encouragement and it was as good as new.  I relocated it to our back pasture and wished it a happy Easter.

Well...enough of this!  While I don't have a lot to say right now, I've got a couple of blogs starting to bubble.  One sad.  Both necessary.

As for all you readers who are heading into the sunset:  Shane! Shane! Come back, Shane!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tempus fugit

Time flies, as they say.  Though they've got it wrong.  "Tempus fugit" is Latin for "time flees."  Flies, flees...what's the difference, Doug?  There you go wanting to split hairs.

I admit that time does fly.  And we fly along with it.  How fast are we flying, you ask.  Well, faster than I'm comfortable with.  Let's look at one of the slowest moving things in our lives.  A day and a night, which we have labeled "24 hours." takes earth a whole 24 hours to spin on its axis and sometimes that is excruciatingly slow for us.  Sometimes it passes too fast as in "where in the world did this day go?"  But if you look at it relative, Einstein, to our measurement of speed, it takes on a new perspective.  If you were to suspend yourself above the earth's equator, it would still take 24 hours for you to watch it make one complete rotation, but you would be watching 25,000 miles pass by below you.  At just over 1000 miles per hour.  Hmmm....sure doesn't feel that fast does it?

Now, that's just the baby of speed.  Let's look at our trip around the sun.  Takes a whole dang year, doesn't it.  And, the phenomenon of aging and time passing faster aside, that's 364 1/4 days anyway you tilt it.  Although earth is a mere 93 million miles from the sun, its orbit distance is just under 585 million miles, which means we're zipping along at around 67,000 miles per hour.  That's a lot faster than a speeding bullet (6336 mph) and I'm pretty sure that even Superman can't go that fast.

Bear with me another minute or two because I'm almost done here.

I've always wondered why we don't feel these speeds?  I mean, they're mind-boggling speeds.  Agree?  Well, I understand that it's the same principle as when you're moving along in a car on a smooth road at 60 mph.  You don't feel the movement.  Unless there is an acceleration or deceleration.  So, since the earth's rotation and orbit is at a constant speed, we don't feel like we're moving.  And I know that you hope and pray as much as I do that we don't have any  sudden accelerations or decelerations.  That would probably mark a big day in our lives.

I won't go into the fact that our solar system is moving within our Milky Way galaxy at the rate of over 40 million miles per hour and that our galaxy is moving even faster than that.  That's not really what I wanted to say anyway.

I just wanted to make a quick statement about tempus fugit.  Time fleeing.  When my father was in his last days, as he lay in the hospital bed for the last time, I went to his side and asked if there was anything I could get him.  Was there anything that he wanted.  Anything.  His answer has stuck with me ever since and will stick with me for the rest of my life.  His head slowly turned toward me and he said in a quiet voice: "More time.  I want more time."

I couldn't give him that.  But in those words he gave me a gift.  I should use it more often than I do because it's precious and irreplaceable.  It's the knowledge that we need to take advantage of every second we have on this hurdling planet.  We should grasp every hour, every day as we shoot through space, and life, at breakneck speeds.  And if much wiser folks than me say that time flees, I need to believe them.  And I need to chase it with every ounce of strength in my body and with every thread of my soul.  I need to chase it so hard that it's constantly looking over its shoulder and wondering who in the hell is that lunatic on its heels.  It can flee all it wants, but I'm not going to sit idly by and watch it disappear over the horizon.

Tempus fugit, baby.  Move out of my way.